Tope Awotona Poured His Life Savings Into Calendly, Now He’s One Of America’s Billionaires: Here’s His Story

I’m sure you’ve used or heard of Calendly.com and if you haven’t, get ready to meet its founder Tope Awotona.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, into a middle-class family, Awotona’s father was a microbiologist and entrepreneur while his mother worked at the central bank. At 12, Awotona witnessed his father get shot and killed in a carjacking. This is something he has previously spoken about in length to Inc Magazine.

By age 15, he had moved with his family to Atlanta, studying computer science at the University of Georgia before going into business and management information.

He previously said: “In 1996, my family moved to Atlanta. It’s a big city like Lagos, and it also has crazy traffic. That’s where the similarities end. Lagos has an absolute absence of law, order, and structure. Lagosians don’t think any rules apply to them: If they see a line, they go around it, and rules are suggestions, more or less. Nigerians love that: “If I’m assertive and aggressive enough, I can get away with whatever I want.”

According to Forbes, Tope Awotona is now a billionaire.

The 40-year-old started Calendly to make the process of finding meeting times easy in Atlanta nine years ago using his life savings of $200,000 before ditching his job selling software for EMC. When the idea for Calendly popped into Tope’s head, he also drained his 401K entirely to get it off the ground. 

But he soon ran out of money and needed VC funding.

“I raided my bank account and 401(k) to launch Calendly in 2013. Eventually, I ran out of money and started to seek VC funding. I had a working product, and customers using it, and everyone said no. Meanwhile, I watched other people who fit a different “profile” get money thrown at them for shitty ideas. Those VCs were ignorant and shortsighted. The only thing I could attribute it to was that I was black,” he told media.

He worked to prove them wrong and in April 2014, Calendly raised a seed money round totaling $550K from Atlanta Ventures.

Tope designed his app to serve both individuals and businesses. The service would automatically schedule meetings and appointments without users needing to lift a finger. His vision would gather all necessary data, send out invites, and remind attendees.

He included calendar integration and time zone detection – something not many had even thought about.

Currently, about 10 million people use the platform monthly since it was created. The popularity of the app was attributed to the rising number of people working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lyft, Ancestry.com, Indiana University and La-Z-Boy are among its customers.

 As Black Enterprise noted, “With the increase in remote working, more professionals utilize the service to schedule virtual meetings and Zoom events. It is something CEO Tope Awotona says has led the company to new heights with the new valuation.”

In February last year, the platform closed a $350 million investment led by Boston-based OpenView Venture Partners with participation from Iconiq Capital, valuing the business at $3 billion.

“That means Awotona’s majority stake is worth at least $1.4 billion, after the 10% discount that Forbes applies to shares of all private companies,” Forbes announced this week.

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Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.